Already more fun and accessible than the Humane AI Pin

At CES next January, the startup Rabbit, just in time for the end of the year of the rabbit according to the lunar calendar. It’s a cute little orange square that has been positioned as a “pocket companion that takes AI from words to action.” In other words, it’s essentially a dedicated AI machine that acts a bit like a walkie-talkie for a virtual assistant.

Looks familiar? You’re probably thinking of the Humane AI Pin, which shipped and started shipping this month. Me, while the outlets like Wired And The edge gave it equally low scores of 4 out of 10.

The folks at Rabbit have been paying close attention to the aftermath of the Humane AI Pin launch and reviews. This was evident in founder and CEO Jesse Lyu’s speech at an unboxing event at the TWA Hotel in New York last night, where the company introduced the Rabbit R1 and enthusiastic early adopters listened enthusiastically before to collect their pre-orders. Engadget’s sampling unit is on its way to Devindra Hardawar, who will handle this review. But I was there last night to check out the units at the event that industry peers were unboxing (thanks to for help !).

As a reminder, the Rabbit R1 is a bright orange square, designed jointly by Teenage Engineering and Rabbit. It has a built-in 2.88-inch color screen, an 8-megapixel camera that can be rotated in both directions, and a scroll wheel reminiscent of the hand crank of the . The latter, by the way, is a compact gaming handheld that was also designed by Teenage Engineering, and the Rabbit R1 shares its adorable retro aesthetic. Again, like the Humane AI Pin, the Rabbit R1 is meant to be your portal to an AI-powered assistant and operating system. However, there are a few key differences, which Lyu touched on extensively during the launch event last night.

Let’s get this out of the way: the Rabbit R1 already looks a lot more attractive than the Humane AI Pin. First of all, it costs $199, less than a third of the AI ​​Pin’s $700. Humane also requires a monthly subscription of $24, otherwise its device will become virtually useless. Rabbit, as Lyu repeatedly said all night, does not charge such a fee. You’ll just be responsible for your own cellular service (4G LTE only, no 5G) and can bring your own SIM card or just default to good old Wi-Fi. You’ll also find the USB-C charging port there.

The advantages of R1 over Pin don’t stop there. Thanks to its built-in screen (instead of a rickety, albeit intriguing, projector), the orange square is more versatile and much easier to interact with. You can use the wheel to scroll through items and press the button on the right side to confirm a choice. You can also tap the screen or press a button to start talking to the software.

I didn’t take any photos with the device myself, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images I saw on its screen. My expectations may have been quite low, but when reviewers in a media room set up their devices using the onboard cameras to scan QR codes, I found the images on the screens clear and incredibly vibrant. By the way, users won’t just capture photos, videos, and QR codes with the Rabbit R1. It also has a Vision feature like the Humane AI Pin which will analyze an image you take and tell you what’s in it. In Lyu’s demo, the R1 told him that he saw a crowd of people at “an event or concert hall.”

A Rabbit R1 unit on a table, with a USB-C cable plugged into its left edge.  The screen is on and says A Rabbit R1 unit on a table, with a USB-C cable plugged into its left edge.  The screen is on and says

Cherlynn Low for Engadget

We’ll have to wait until Devindra actually takes some photos with our R1 unit and uploads them from the web portal that Rabbit cleverly calls the Rabbit Hole. The name of the camera-based features is Rabbit Eye, which is simply delicious. In fact, another thing that sets Rabbit apart from Humane is the former’s personality. The R1 is full of character. From witty feature names to retro aesthetics to on-screen animation to the fact that the AI ​​will actually make (cheesy) jokes, Rabbit and Teenage Engineering have developed something that has a lot more flavor than Humane’s almost clinical appearance and approach.

Of all the things Lyu took shots at on Humane last night, however, talk of the R1’s thermal performance or the AI ​​Pin’s heat issues was noticeably absent. To be clear, the R1 is slightly larger than the Humane device and it uses an octa-core MediaTek MT6765 processor, compared to the AI ​​Pin’s Snapdragon chip. There’s no indication yet that the Rabbit device will run as hot as Humane’s Pin, but I’ve been burned before (metaphorically) and remain cautious.

I’m also slightly concerned about the R1’s glossy plastic construction. It looks nice and seems lighter than expected, weighing just 115 grams or about a quarter of a pound. The scroll wheel moved smoothly when I pushed it up and down, and there were no physical grooves or notches, unlike the rotating hinge on Samsung’s Galaxy Watches. The camera body sat flush with the rest of the R1’s body, and in general the unit looked refined and finished.

Most of my other impressions of the Rabbit R1 come from Lyu’s on-stage demos, where I was surprised by how quickly his device responded to his queries. He was able to tap on the R1’s screen and tilt it so that the controls were below the screen rather than to its right. This way, there was enough room for an on-screen keyboard that Lyu said was the same width as the one on the original iPhone.

Rabbit has also gained attention for its so-called Large Action Model (LAM), which acts as an interpreter to convert popular apps like Spotify or Doordash into interfaces running on the R1’s simple operating system. Lyu also showed off a few at last night’s event, but I’d much rather wait until we test them out for ourselves.

Lyu made plenty of promises to the public, seeming to acknowledge that the R1 might not be fully equipped when it gets into their hands. Even on the company’s website, there is a list of features planned, in the works, or being explored. For one thing, an alarm is coming this summer, along with a calendar, contacts app, GPS support, memory booster and more. Throughout his speech, Lyu repeated the phrase “we’ll work on it” amid veiled references to Humane (for example emphasizing that Rabbit does not require additional subscription fees). Ultimately, Lyu said “we just continue to add value to this thing,” referring to a roadmap of upcoming features.

Hopefully Lyu and his team are able to deliver on the promises they made. I’m already very intrigued by a “learning mode” he teased, which is essentially a way to generate macros by recording an action on the R1 and allowing it to learn what you want to do when you Say something. Rabbit’s approach certainly seems more suited to DIYers and enthusiasts, while Humane’s is ambitious and yet closed-minded. It sounds like Google and Apple all over again, except it remains to be seen whether the race for AI devices will ever reach the same magnitude.

Last night’s event also made it clear what Rabbit wants us to think. It took place at the TWA Hotel, which itself was the headquarters of the TWA Flight Center. The whole place is an homage to retro vibes, and the entrance to Rabbit’s event was lined with display cases containing gadgets like a Pokedex, a Sony Watchman, a Motorola pager, a Game Boy Color and more. Every glass box I passed made me scream, evoking a pleasant sensory memory that also resurfaced when playing with the R1. It didn’t feel good to me in that it was high-end or durable; It felt good because it reminded me of my childhood.

Rabbit’s success with R1 depends on how you define success. The company has already sold over 100,000 units this quarter and looks set to sell at least one more (I’m already pulling out my credit card). I remain skeptical of the usefulness of AI devices, but, largely due to its price and ability to work with third-party apps at launch, Rabbit has already managed to make me feel like Alice entering the country wonderful things.

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